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It’s No Mystery: Groovy Payoff for ‘Austin Powers’ Star

Mike Myers won’t make a George Lucas-sized killing on his hot summer movie, but he stands to shag $20 million or more from his “Austin Powers” blockbuster sequel.

And because the movie is such a phenomenal hit after just one week in release, Myers will almost assuredly make that kind of money as an upfront fee on the franchise’s next installment.

That would put him in the company of Hollywood’s highest-paid stars, among them Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Will Smith.

Sources say the 36-year-old former “Saturday Night Live” regular, who starred in, co-wrote and helped produce the “Austin Powers” sequel, was guaranteed $7 million upfront against 10% of the first-dollar gross. That means Myers gets at least 10 cents from every box-office dollar that comes to New Line Cinema from the film.

Those sources said Myers’ deal escalates to 15% of “adjusted gross” at break-even, when New Line, the film’s financier and distributor, recoups all its production, marketing, releasing, interest and overhead costs.

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New Line spent $33 million to produce “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and will probably spend more than $30 million on total marketing expenses. With other costs added in, New Line’s investment probably will be at least $80 million.

But breaking even will hardly be a problem.

Since its release last week, “Austin Powers” has grossed an estimated $80.5 million in theatrical box-office revenue and is expected to top $100 million this weekend.

Industry sources expect the comedy to gross more than $200 million (some believe as much as $250 million) domestically and to follow in the footsteps of its 1997 predecessor as a huge hit on video. About half of the domestic box office comes back to New Line.

The sequel sold more tickets in its opening weekend--$55 million worth--than the original did in its entire domestic run before it went on to be a runaway hit on video. The first movie is still among the top video sellers.

The sequel’s foreign receipts are harder to predict, because American comedies historically don’t perform as well overseas as dramatic or action pictures.

As Rolf Mittweg, New Line’s co-chairman of worldwide marketing, points out, however, Myers is a “well-known actor overseas” who has the potential of becoming a huge international star with “Austin Powers.”

Mittweg believes that the movie has a good chance of performing as well as other wacky comedies in a similar vein, including “Dumb and Dumber,” starring Carrey, which grossed more than $110 million abroad, and “There’s Something About Mary,” which pulled in $188 million overseas.

As much money as Myers will see on the back end of “Austin,” it won’t be as much as he might have made if the film had been distributed by one of the Hollywood majors such as Disney, Warner Bros. or 20th Century Fox that directly release their movies internationally.

New Line pre-sells foreign rights to its films to local distributors for minimum guarantees and pays them distribution fees. These arrangements vary country by country, which makes it difficult for analysts to calculate the revenue New Line could ultimately see on “Austin Powers.”

In any case, Myers will earn at least twice as much on the “Austin” sequel as he did on the sequel to “Wayne’s World"--which according to a source was $6 million. Meyer was paid $3.5 million upfront and earned an additional $2.5 million in profit on the 1993 sequel, which only grossed $46.6 million domestically.

Myers, who segued from “SCTV” in Chicago to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in 1989 as a writer and eventual cast member, was paid $1 million to make his feature debut as an actor and co-writer on the original “Wayne’s World” in 1992, featuring his “Saturday Night Live” character Wayne Campbell.

That movie was a huge hit, grossing $121.7 million domestically.

Myers, a native of Toronto whose father was an encyclopedia salesman and whose mother was a data processor, also appeared in the 1993 comedy “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” a box-office flop that grossed less than $12 million. Because he was so hot coming off “Wayne’s World,” Myers was paid $2 million for his dual role as a commitment-shy beat poet and his nutty Scottish father in “Axe Murderer.”

He received $3 million upfront for “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” which grossed $53.8 million domestically.

Myers also appeared in Miramax’s 1998 box-office dud “54,” in which he played the role of ‘70s night-club owner Steve Rubell. That film grossed less than $17 million.

Myers apparently has been too busy promoting “Austin Powers” to focus on what his next project will be, although one possibility is “Sprockets,” a movie for Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures based on the “Saturday Night Live” sketch about a nihilistic German cable-access host that he co-wrote with Michael McCullers, his “Austin"-sequel collaborator.

Myers reportedly would get at least $10 million to do that movie.


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